As Sydney celebrates New Year’s Eve like never before, there is some positive news after a slight dip in new coronavirus numbers.The harbour shore is deserted and fenced off from spectators, but there is hope that the saddest of celebrations will help keep the current clusters under control after 10 cases of community transition were recorded in New South Wales today.
“The last thing we want is to welcome in 2021 with a super-spreading event,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Half of the new cases are linked to the Avalon outbreak, three are from the Croydon cluster, one is linked to patient transport workers and another from western Sydney is under investigation and may be an old case.
Cases in the Inner West have health authorities most worried.
“Until we got the Croydon cluster we were on a more pleasing trajectory,” Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
The highest concern is for the Monkey Mania Sports Club in Bankstown, La Piazza at the Bankstown Sports Club, Bass Hill Hair Management and the Venus Nail Salon, and Anytime Fitness in Kings Park.
The premier said almost 28,000 people across the state were tested during the previous 24 hours, an increase on previous days.
Of the 17 new cases to 8pm last night:
Five locally acquired cases are linked to the Avalon cluster and are close contacts of previous cases. This cluster now numbers 144.Three locally acquired cases are linked to the Inner West cluster, the source of which is still under investigation. These cases were close contacts of cases reported yesterday and there are now nine cases in this cluster.One locally acquired case is a close contact of one of the two patient transport drivers reported previously.One further case, from western Sydney, is under investigation.Seven cases were acquired overseas and are in hotel quarantine.
Ms Berejiklian said while it was pleasing to see case numbers fall, the situation remains “very volatile”.
She stressed the importance of wearing masks at indoor public places.
“What is really important is for us all to do everything we can to reduce our mobility, to reduce the number of people you are mixing with to make sure you stick to the rules of the health advice that has been provided,” she said.
– Monkey Mania at Bankstown Sports Club, Monday December 28 between 10am and 12pm
– Piazza, Bankstown Sports Club, Monday December 28, 12pm -2pm
– Bass Hill Hair Management, Bass Hill Plaza, Thursday, December 24 from 11.15am – 12.30pm
– The Venus nail salon, Bass Hill, Thursday December 24, 12.30pm – 1pm
– Kings Park Anytime Fitness, Kings Park. Sunday December 20, 9.30am – 11.45am
– Bardwell Park Earlwood RSL, Monday December 28, 6pm t-11pm
– Priceline Pharmacy, Rhodes Waterside, Thursday 24 December, 9am -12pm
– BWS Bass Hill, Thursday December 24, 1.10pm to 1.30pm
People who attended any of these venues are advised to be tested immediately and isolate until a negative result is received.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing issued a warning ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, saying officers would be “door knocking” to make sure nobody is breaching public health orders.
“It is incumbent upon individuals to understand the current health laws as they apply to them,” he said.
“You’re going to see large numbers of uniformed police officers out and about. We will be checking licenced premises, door knocking where necessary, out patrolling public areas.
“This is about public safey and, from our perspective, COVID safety … and ensuring that everyone sees in New Year’s Eve in a safe way.”
The third Test is set to get underway on January 7, before the series finale which will take place at the Gabba from January 15.
Broadcast staff have been given exemptions to cross the border from NSW to Queensland in between Tests, but players will be forced to comply with stricter quarantine regulations.
“We stand by our decision to make sure we are able to hold COVID safe events and, as Dr Chant said,l if we need to re-evaluate some of the settings, some of the health settings, update our advice, update our compliance measures update COVID safety plan, we won’t hesitate to do that.
Should the SCG be hosting the third Test given Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak?
“If there is an opportunity for us to hold events that are COVD safe we should also proceed on that because at the end of the day what’s on the line?
“Yes community safety always comes first, but we also have to keep jobs going, we don’t want to see more people out of their jobs and we want to make sure that we try and have a sense of normality and if we can do that in a safe way, we should.”
Calls for greater Sydney lockdown
Western Australian Medical Association President, Doctor Andrew Miller, is among those pushing for tighter restrictions across NSW.
“It wouldn’t be going too far to put Sydney in lockdown at the moment until you have this under control,” Dr Miller told Today.
“Sydney may well have the best contact tracing in the country. But that is an incredibly difficult task when you have this number of people and they’re moving around.”
Health authorities had been expecting an increase in COVID-19 cases in the days after Christmas and into the New Year, he said.
Dozens queue in Wollongong for coronavirus tests. (Nine)
“Christmas and New Year are well set up to be super-spreader events. Anything we can do at this point, I think the community would understand, very easily and it’s not going to disrupt as many people in their employment at this time of the year if you say to them, better that everyone stays home for a little while.
“Get this under control. People will understand.”
But infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy suggested a lockdown might not be needed – yet.
“We’re pulling out a lot of stops, so we need to do things sequentially,” Professor Booy told Today.
“But if these stops aren’t working within a few days, a short, sharp lockdown may well be the circuit-breaker we need.”
A COVID-19 testing blitz gets underway in Wollongong. (Nine)
‘New Year’s Eve is the most dangerous date’
Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne warned people from gathering tonight.
“New Year’s Eve has become the most dangerous date on the 2020 calendar, and my message to people across Sydney is please don’t come to our harbourside parks tonight or we risk the last day of 2020 being the worst day of 2020,” Cr Byrne told Today.